“Let me be that I am and seek not to alter me” – William Shakespeare
This quote captioning a well orchastrated picture would be the exact thing that would earn me some Instagram clout.
Now my life is valid, now it has value, now that it has been seen…
This thought has been haunting me over the past month – the constant need of humans to find validation (no, that’s not news), through a new form – Instagram – a digital footprint of how your life is encapsulated through posts and stories, the picture it paints about you, your perfect life.
There have been numerous studies that correlate the effect an Instagram “like” has with that of any other dopamine dispenser such as drugs, sex, and alcohol. It’s an addiction, I get it. But what I don’t fully get is why.
Drugs and alcohol are serious problems some say, but as it has been pointed out to me, these are simply solutions – solutions you deem to your actual problems.
So what is the real problem to this Instagram addiction?
What is that people are looking for? What is it they are looking to solve? Why is there a need to show your life in a perfect way? Correction. Why is there a need to show your life in a perfect way amongst perfectly tailored imperfections? Why is there a need to show anything at all?
To find an answer (spoiler alert: I have none) I did some reading about why Instagram came into being in the first place.
Share the world’s moments with a commitment to keeping it simple – this is the founding philosophy of the app’s founder, Kevin Systrom. His story starts in Florence, Italy where his passion for photography led him in the hope of creating this own art. It was here as he attempted to capture images with his expensively equipped camera, that his Professor insisted he use the plastic camera Holga saying “You have to learn to love imperfection.”
This experience paved the way for Kevin who went on to form this billion dollar photo-sharing app – the app that gave everyone access to the aesthetics – and the appealing simplicity of the Holga. Kevin has stayed true to his commitment to simplicity all through following a vision that empowers you to deal with the imperfections, well that was his idea at least. What his 1+ billion users choose to do, that’s not really something Kevin, or Instagram, can control, can they?!
Dealing with imperfections is not as easy as posting a picture about it.
The pressure to live an Instgrammable life is a problem neither the app, nor the world had anticipated to tackle. For better or for worse, we are all in this together, those who have the app, and those who don’t. We’ve all sat at the table with our loved ones where there are more heads staring down than at each other, as people mindlessly scroll through their feed of endless photos – longing for someone else’s life, or simply moment, whilst missing out on their own.
The very app that was built for a sense of sharing and community is now a top cause for isolation and depression. Some recognize it, most don’t. I myself have administered my use of Instagram, switching off the use of data for the app, in a way forcing me to not be able to use it when I’m in the middle of another experience. (It’s been easier than I thought!)
The thought that continues to haunt me though is of the real problem that Instagram seems to be the “solution” for.
The portrayal of your life /
the access to others’ /
the meaning behind a like /
the gratification of a story viewed /
the need to know /
or even to show /
how does it look /
how is it seen /
and by whom /
who are they /
who am I /
am I doing it right /
am I doing it at all /
is this my life /
can I live up to it /
this gram life /
am I living for /
this gram life /
but the real question is /
is it worth it, is it real /
is it necessary or a choice /
this gram life //
The answer, like I said, I have none, but like every other thing that I’ve questioned and come to understand, lies within you. You know yourself, your life, your triggers, your mind – be true to it – because in these “shared moments” of inauthentic authenticity being true to yourself will be the only reality saving you from that imposter syndrome. My hope, through this post, is that people recognize the triggers that drive them to Instagram, the good and the bad. Truth is, just like for everything else in life, there are both these sides to Instagram too – the real, the ugly, the virtuality – to see or show, to like or not, to share or not, the truth or not, the choice is ours – it’s up to us – to recognize that, to be honest with ourselves about it and about the way we choose to use it in our life – you know, the real one.